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Reporting is Not the End

Data is powerful, and can help in making strides at improving efficiencies and processes—but it’s not enough on its own. There’s more work to be done to unleash the full power for transformation assessment data can have.

You’ve planned, collected data, conducted analyses, and documented it all in one robust report. That’s not the end of the assessment process, though. 

While the report may summarize what you’ve done so far, reporting might more accurately be considered the middle of the process. Report documentation is not where the story ends; there is still sharing and taking action as a result of the data. Some even consider re-assessing to measure impact of change or confirm initial results as part of the initial cycle or process. 

If you’ve confused reporting with the end of the cycle, don’t worry — I have some tips and advice to integrate into your practice to best respect the process and maximize your results. 

Design with the end in mind

The Nine Principles of Good Practice for Assessing Student Learning encourages beginning with educational values. In determining what program or student learning outcomes to measure, one should be intentional in knowing what matters to them and what needs acted upon. Another principle is designing assessment with use in mind. In other words, one should think of the data they would need in order to share with specific audiences, as well as data needed to inform change or take action. If we are considering this in the planning phase, we should actually follow through once we have the data. 

Tip: Take notes — as part of your planning, make a note for how, when, and with whom you will use this data.

Results should prompt action

Given its purpose, data needs to be used. Ewell (2009) says a primary purpose of assessment is for accountability. Accountability is not referenced in the sense of evaluating employee performance, but rather upholding responsibility for claims relating to student learning. Results from collected data should inform practice and prompt action for continuous improvement. 

If nothing is done with data, one must seriously question why it was collected in the first place. What need was it supposed to satisfy? What question was it supposed to answer? Further, if data are not effectively used as evidence of quality, the validity of the curriculum, activities, interventions, and their claims are open to question and criticism. 


  • Include an action item section with timelines and people responsible in every report. This should remind folks reporting is not the end, while also giving specific directions to pursue in moving forward.
  • Build reflection of assessment data into processes (strategic planning, budgeting, goal-setting, program review). Assessment data should be considered alongside operational data, market information, and other data streams guiding growth and development.

Sharing is Caring

Whether or not students are learning and developing as expected, sharing of results is always an appropriate action item. Sharing should be intentional — it’s not just forwarding a report or giving the same data presentation to different people across campus. Messages should be tailored to each intended audience in a way that allows stakeholders to consider information in relation to their priorities and make data-informed decisions (Henning et al., 2008). 

Tip: Set aside time to build and create a sharing strategy. What should be shared and with whom? When should such sharing occur? In what formats will information be shared? Do other areas (e.g., marketing) need to be involved before sharing can occur?

I’ll leave you with this quote from Natalie Wood: “Not even analysis, by itself, can transform the world. You must still do the changing yourself.” 

Reporting on its own is not enough. You must still do the changing — intentionally designing, taking action, and sharing — in order to unleash the full power for transformation assessment data can have.

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